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Inmate at Knox County detention center tests positive for COVID-19

The unnamed inmate had been in contact with 30 people. All of those people have tested negative, authorities say.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A Knox County inmate -- the first since the outbreak -- has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now being held in medical isolation at the county's Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility, the sheriff's communications director said Wednesday.

The unnamed inmate had been in contact with 30 people, according to Knox County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kimberly Glenn. All of those people have tested negative for the highly contagious virus.

"The medical and correctional staff at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility are following all protocols/directives from the CDC as well as the Knox County Health Department," Glenn said in a statement.

The facility is the main holding center for hundreds of male and female county inmates and is located off Maloneyville Road.

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She added: "We feel very fortunate that this has been our only case thus far for either an inmate or any of the Knox County Sheriff's Office staff."

According to Glenn, Sheriff Tom Spangler and staff took early precautions, including repeated deep cleanings, after the virus arrived in Tennessee in March to ensure no broad spread could occur if any inmate tested positive. 

"I would also like to add that anyone entering any of our corrections facilities are being screened and this will continue for the foreseeable future," Glenn's statement reads.

Health officials fear exposure in jails and prisons because space can be so confined.

The Tennessee Department of Correction has reported a few deaths among prison inmates from virus complications since the spring, and it has tested hundreds of inmates in several prisons. Most inmates who tested positive were asymptomatic, according to TDOC.

Some county jails such as in Hamblen and Davidson counties also have seen virus outbreaks among inmates and employees.

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